A judge issued an injunction on Monday that blocks Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam from removing a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from state property in Richmond for another 90 days.
According to The Associated Press, Richmond Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Marchant dismissed a lawsuit filed by a descendant of someone who signed the 1890 deed that transferred ownership of the statue to the state, but he also forbade the state from taking the statue down.
“Plaintiff William C. Gregory, the great-grandson of land donors, had argued the state agreed to ‘faithfully guard’ and ‘affectionately protect’ the statue on historic Monument Avenue that is among the most prominent Confederate tributes in the U.S.,” the AP reported.
The order read in part:
Therefore, for all the reasons set forth in this Court’s Letter Opinion of August 3, 2020, which is incorporated herein by reference, the Defendants and their agents and assigns are hereby ENJOINED from removing, altering, or dismantling, in any way, the Robert E. Lee Monument and Pedestal from its current location on Monument Avenue in the City of Richmond. The injunction shall remain in effect for ninety days or for such period as may be set by further Order of this Court.
Another lawsuit brought by plaintiffs who own property near the statue argued that the statue’s removal will cause the area to lose its National Historic Landmark designation, “which will have a substantial adverse impact” and cause the loss of “favorable tax treatment and reduction in property values.” Judge Reilly determined they have the right to sue for such reasons.
According to the AP, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring “remains committed to ensuring this divisive, antiquated relic is removed as soon as possible,” and a University of Virginia law professor predicted the case would end up being decided by the Virginia Supreme Court.
The Lee Monument is the last remaining statue commemorating a Confederate figure along historic Monument Avenue in Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy. In the wake of George Floyd’s death, protesters toppled a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Weeks later, Confederate Naval commander Matthew Fontaine Murray, as well as Confederate Gens. Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart, came down after Democratic Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney ordered the removal of all Confederate statues on city property. Because Lee is technically on state property, the mayor’s order did not apply.
A hologram commemorating George Floyd made its debut at the heavily graffitied Lee statue last week before taking a tour through the South to be projected onto Confederate monuments. The hologram’s stops throughout Virginia, North Carolina, and others states mirrors the 1961 Freedom Rides, in which civil rights activists rode interstate buses into the South to protest racial segregation and register black voters.
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